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Big Bend on the Upper Missouri, 1900 Miles above St. Louis

1832 George Catlin Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796 Died: Jersey City, New Jersey 1872 oil on canvas 11 1/8 x 14 3/8 in. (28.3 x 36.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.390 Not currently on view

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“Saturday, fifth day of our voyage from the mouth of Yellow Stone . . . Landed our canoe in the Grand Détour (or Big Bend) as it is called, at the base of a stately clay mound, and ascended, all hands, to the summit level, to take a glance at the picturesque and magnificent works of Nature that were about us. Spent the remainder of the day in painting a view of this grand scene; for which purpose Ba'tiste and Bogard carried my easel and canvas to the top of a huge mound, where they left me at my work . . . Scarcely anything in nature can be found, I am sure, more exceedingly picturesque than the view from this place; exhibiting the wonderful manner in which the gorges of the river have cut out its deep channel through these walls of clay on either side, of two or three hundred feet in elevation; and the imposing features of the high table-lands in distance, standing as a perpetual anomaly in the country, and producing the indisputable, though astounding evidence of the fact, that there has been at some ancient period, a super surface to this country, corresponding with the elevation of these tabular hills, whose surface, for half a mile or more, on their tops, is perfectly level.” (Catlin, Letters and Notes, vol. 1, no. 10, 1841; reprint 1973)


Ethnic - Indian

Figure group - male

Landscape - river - Missouri River

Landscape - United States


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

metal - aluminum - support added